March 21, 2017

Getting pneumonia while hospitalized

If your loved one has been hospitalized, you might have noticed an odd-looking device on their bedside table. It’s called a “spirometer.”  They want patients to blow into it several times an hour to prevent a particularly serious infection: hospital-acquired pneumonia.

Patients in the hospital spend a lot of time in bed. With no activity, fluids build up in the lungs and become a prime site for infection. Then add a weakened immune system and exposure to lots of people (staff, other patients, and visitors), and the risk of infection goes way up.

Also, the germs in the hospital are very powerful. Many are even resistant to antibiotics.

If your loved one goes into the hospital, there are some things you can do to help prevent this dangerous complication:

  • Everyone enters the room have them wash their hands. This includes friends and family, as well as staff. Hand sanitizer will also work.
  • Stay home if you are sick. Ask the same of any visitors.
  • Get your relative up and walking asap. Staying active is the best way to clear the lungs and engage the body’s natural healing mechanisms.
  • Encourage deep breathing. Ask hospital staff to show you and your loved one how to properly use the spirometer. Encourage your loved one to use it and track progress.
  • Keep the headboard raised. A 30° angle on the bed is enough to help keep lungs clear.
  • Ensure good oral hygiene. By brushing teeth and rinsing the mouth at least twice a day you can get rid of bacteria that may be on their way to the lungs. Also tell staff of any mouth sores or cuts, as these will need special attention.
  • Ask whether a pneumonia vaccine is appropriate. A vaccine might be a wise precaution depending on your loved one’s condition, immunization history, and likely length of stay.

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